10 February 2006

i like big cars

I feel much safer in them because if I crash or flip over or lose control, there's so much more between me and the road/tree/embankment/overpass. I have an extreme paranoia about the dangers of cars, particularly on highways because they are so fast which makes no sense because highways are so much safer because you don't have intersections, but there you go. When I used to drive alot, in Rwanda, I felt safer than I do now, which I think was a function of several things:
  1. I knew the vehicle
  2. The vehicle was big
  3. I knew the roads

In Rwanda there are no speed limits. Sometimes a cop would flag me down and tell me to drive more "doucement," which I understood even if I understood little else of what he said. One would think that the natural result of this lack of speed limitage would be that I would become a faster driver, but in fact that has not been the case. This is partly because of my extreme paranoia about the dangers of cars - saw too many horrible crashes like the one of dead bodies strewn beside the road that prompted Safari to say, "C'est presque normal ici" - It's almost normal here. It is also partly because I actually learned how to drive in Rwanda. You don't really need to know how to drive in the US. Everyone is so predictable. They stop when they ought, they drive near the speed limit, they stay in their lanes. You learn how to drive, really how to drive and drive defensively, when you round a curve knowing that you are likely to find, in the middle of it, that your lane is completely taken up by an oncoming bus the size of a Greyhound, on the wrong side of the road, leaning over on two wheels, and the only place to get away from it is a ditch three feet deep with no guardrails and a mountain going straight up beyond it. This very bus once had to swerve so suddenly out of my lane that I kept turning around for kilometers to make sure that it had righted itself and not plunged down the cliff on the other side of the road. Finally, far behind me, I saw it rounding the other side of the valley and I knew it was okay.

The point is that when I drove in the US before Rwanda, I spent most of my time watching the speedometer. My biggest fear was getting pulled over. Now my biggest fear is dying or killing someone because cars are dangerous beasts, so I don't look at the speedometer much anymore. But when I do, I'm always surprised to find that I'm going almost exactly the speed limit. Apparently my brain, which has been reprogramed to drive at a safe speed rather than the posted speed, has the same idea for a safe speed as the people who designed the road. I also find that my speed varies much less. I look at the speedometer on the highway and I'm going 75. Ten miles later, I look at it again and I'm going, again, exactly 75. It says something to me about trusting our instincts rather than all the constant information we get from outside. Somehow my brain knows how fast it's safe to drive.

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